Fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut

Not all bacteria are bad

The humble cabbage holds an impressive secret.

Most would say cabbage is dull when boiled but if you crush it, add sea salt and time you get amazing sauerkraut.

cabbage-sauerkrautSauerkraut is rich in enzymes and bacteria and was traditionally used to preserve vegetables providing vitamin C in winter. Sauerkraut is the German word for sour cabbage.

Fermented foods today

Today fermented foods are enjoyed as condiments, like chutney or relish, throughout the world. Kimchee is eaten in Korea, it is fermented cabbage with chili, ginger and garlic.

A completely sanitary existence appears to be doing more harm than good; Mark McMorris M.D. a pediatric allergist at the University of Michigan Health System says, “We’ve developed a cleanlier lifestyle, and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past. As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies.” [1]

Allergies and being too clean

Could the rise in allergies be due to overly zealous antibacterial cleanliness?

fermenting cabbage into sauerkrautBacteria are the essence of life; a child at birth gets some of its gut flora from its mother, then breast milk, and later enzyme-rich, real food provides more beneficial bacteria. A processed food diet can be lacking in beneficial bacteria.

A great reference on everything fermented is Alex Lewin’s book Real Food Fermentation.

You can  buy it at Amazon (affiliate link)

If you don’t fancy making your own sauerkraut, Karthein’s Organic Unpasteurized Sauerkraut is delicious, a traditionally fermented cabbage and carrot mix.

With all things fermented, less is more. Enjoy a little sauerkraut on salads, accompanying eggs, cheese or meats.

Making sauerkraut requires the bacteria from the cabbage to ferment effectively. It is important to follow normal food safe hygiene and canning preparation procedures.

Sauerkraut recipe

Two one-litre Bernadin or Mason jars (buy here – affiliate link) or a Sauerkraut crock (buy here – affiliate link)

One medium cabbage – remove green outer leaves and core

One tablespoon of Celtic sea salt (buy it here – affiliate link)

Cocktail muddler

Glass bowl

A little filtered water – or pour a glass of water and let it stand for an hour

Method for making sauerkraut

Make sure the equipment and your hands are clean but please avoid antibacterial dish soap when fermenting.

Shred or chop cabbage, put in the bowl, sprinkle with salt; this starts the fermentation!

Now the fun part: pound cabbage with the muddler.

After five to 10 minutes, liquid comes out from the cabbage. You’ll hear bubbling. Pack the cabbage gently but firmly into the jars, removing air bubbles.

Add a little filtered water (if needed) so juices come to the top of the cabbage.

Leave an inch at the top of the jars to allow space for fermentation.

Keep jars on the kitchen bench.

Turn jars daily. Carefully, open lid daily, it will go ‘pssst’! After four days put in the fridge.

This article first appeared in The Question newspaper in British Columbia, Canada


Watch a video on how to start fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut.  This version is cabbage, carrots with ginger.


References: University of Michigan Health System. “The Hygiene Hypothesis: Are Cleanlier Lifestyles Causing More Allergies For Kids?.” ScienceDaily, 9 Sep. 2007. Web. 28Aug 2012.

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The information on this website is intended as a general guide only and does not relate to any particular individual or circumstance.  Do not attempt self-diagnosis or self-treatment for any conditions before consulting a medical professional or qualified practitioner. The author expressly disclaims any liability to the reader of this website.

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